Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright once wrote: “The temptation is powerful to close our eyes and wait for the worst to pass, but history tells us that for freedom to survive, it must be defended, and that if lies are to stop, they must be exposed.”
Therefore, it is not surprising that many of those who have testified to date before the Jan. 6 House select committee are not Democrats but Republicans. The testimony, given mainly by Republicans who held key positions in former President Trump’s campaign or administration, refutes claims that the public hearings are part of a partisan witch hunt. Piece by piece, the testimonies given before the American people are solidly exposing the lies.
Sen. Tim Scott from South Carolina was asked if he had been watching the hearings.
“I have not watched the January 6 hearings,” Scott said, “I was actually in the Senate when it happened. So I don’t need an education on what actually happened.”
He continued by describing the hearings as a “made for TV” event aimed more at “diverting the public’s attention and less to do with finding the truth.”
Nowhere in Sen. Scott’s response did he mention the responsibility of Congress in holding all those involved accountable, including members of Congress and members of the former president’s administration and campaign.
The Jan. 6 insurrection was not simply a “dust-up at the Capitol” but a deadly domestic attack on a sacred symbol of American democracy where members inside were proceeding with the lawful transfer of presidential power. Unfortunately for the nation, the senator is not alone in his way of thinking. Many people strongly feel they too “don’t need an education” and are downplaying the attack out of fear or loyalty to the former president. Since Sen. Scott used the word education, maybe teaching is part of the solution in defending democracy and opening closed eyes.
But the most effective teaching should come from the top.
David Gergen, a former White House adviser who served four sitting presidents—Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton—said, “The role of the leader is to be a teacher.” He also cited former President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s belief that moral leadership is “all about the President making choices and trying to bring people along on difficult issues.”
Roosevelt was both highly respected and highly criticized. While credited with helping the nation through the Great Depression and providing strong military leadership during World War II, he had many political detractors who opposed his excessive presidential control. He often clashed with conservatives who disagreed with the growing federal government and national debt. While conservatives were not in favor of his regulations on businesses and his support for labor unions, others were disappointed that Roosevelt was not deeply supportive of civil rights or women’s rights. Whether you view him as a hero or villain, his leadership skills were unmatched in how he connected with everyday people. When Roosevelt took office, nearly a third of the nation’s workers were unemployed, many banks and businesses had gone under, and the national income was slashed in half. The country was literally in fear of an unknown future.
During the depression, Roosevelt believed in keeping the people whom he served fully informed. He developed a habit of communicating directly with the public through evening radio addresses (fireside chats). It was an opportunity to subdue rumors while using the simplest language to explain complex reasons behind the proposed social changes. In other words, he was a teacher to the American people. The political climate was much different in the 1930s, where eventually, conservatives accepted the truth from a liberal president. Therefore, his calming manner of communicating effectively lifted the public’s confidence and understanding despite the overall differences in political ideology. He was the only man elected U.S. president four times.
Today, our nation again faces an unknown future. For Roosevelt, it was economic depression; today, it is the unknown future of American democracy. About a third of the way through the 2022 primaries, voters have nominated over 100 Republican candidates for state and federal offices who supported Donald Trump’s false claims saying the 2020 election was rigged. Despite the shocking details disclosed during the Jan. 6 hearings, election-denying candidates still ignore the truth.
People in the nation fear that the attempts to overthrow the presidential election in 2020 may not be stopped in 2024 with this year’s midterm elections and the wave of election-denying candidates. Many of these candidates will hold positions with the power to interfere in the outcomes of future contests: to block the certification of election results, change the rules around awarding their states’ electoral votes, or accept litigation attempting to set aside the popular vote.
Democracy must be defended in real time. Today, we see Democrats and Republicans working together and doing their part with the committee hearings. After the complete findings from the Jan. 6 committee are presented to the public, only time will tell if the Department of Justice and the president will fully rise to the moment.
David W. Marshall is the founder of the faith-based organization, TRB: The Reconciled Body, and author of the book God Bless Our Divided America. He can be reached at www.davidwmarshallauthor.com.